Christian messages and dogma abound in our neck of the woods. No, we don’t live in the Bible Belt, but we do live in a predominantly conservative, Republican, Christian area, dotted with “mega churches,” home to evangelicals who seem to believe it is their duty to spread the word and make the state of other people’s souls their business, an area where it is not uncommon to see people standing on the corners of busy intersections holding up huge signs that say in black, block lettering, things like, “GOD IS THE WAY,” and “FEAR THE WRATH OF THE LORD.” So, despite the fact that we do not take our kids to church, nor do we fill their impressionable little heads with religious dogma of any color or stripe, they are nonetheless familiar with the notions of God and Jesus and Heaven and Hell, mostly because they’re surrounded by it, even at their secular schools. Most of their friends go to church and parrot the messages they’ve been spoon-fed since infancy, and just approach any clutch of moms on the playground and chances are you’ll hear their conversations peppered with references to church and prayer and yada yada yada. It’s hard to get away from, and for those of us who endeavor to raise children who will grow into adults who are critical thinkers, it’s an uphill battle.
Kevin was recently invited by one of his closest friends, a Christian by upbringing, to this all-night church event called Midnight Madness. This came on the heels of Kevin receiving by email another bit of Christian propaganda (he gets them periodically – you know, those chain emails that contain some manufactured story designed to “prove” that God is real) – something about Albert Einstein standing up to an atheist philosophy professor way back when, and using the very logic of science to prove that God exists. Fortunately, Kevin forwarded the email to me, which prompted a good discussion. The story itself was easy enough to debunk; all it takes is a few Google searches to discover that Einstein was a self-proclaimed agnostic, and there is no evidence of his ever having written a book called God vs. Science in 1921 – or ever. The trick is not to do exactly what I disdain about what Christian parents do to their kids: tell him what to believe. Instead, what Michael and I set out to do is to teach our kids not to believe everything they’re told. Doubt everything. Question everything. Be skeptical. Examine the facts. Make up your own mind.
Anyway. Back to this Midnight Madness thing. It’s apparently an annual event. Here’s the flyer from a couple years ago (because no flyer for this year’s event seems to be available):
I was disturbed by this on many levels. First off, I guess I find it suspect that there seems to be this need to present religion in this hip package specially aimed at teens (and I have no doubt that they sell other packages to other demographics). It seems awfully contrived and manipulative. Also, this all-night thing? Hmm. Get them all fed and ramped up and tired out, wait till their resistance is at a low from exhaustion, and then feed them Christian messages! Huh.
But really, what bothers me the most is just the whole recruitment aspect of it. It is the number one thing I can’t stand about evangelical Christianity. This whole Midnight Madness thing is an “outreach” event, so described by the person running the event, per a phone call to that person. Outreach . . . hmm. Outreach = recruitment = pushing your faith on other people. Did you notice on the flyer that visitors pay less to get in than members do? And? Members get perks for each visitor they bring! There are incentives for even kids to try to recruit new members. Seems a little cultish.
I don’t understand it, I’ll never understand it. You know what? If Christ is your guy, and Christianity is your path, then bully for you! But to be so arrogant as to think that anyone who does not share your beliefs is lacking in some way, and that you are doing them a favor by trying to get them on the “right” path . . . I find this so offensive. I don’t even think missionary work is benevolent or altruistic. It’s not doing good works just for the sake of humanity, it’s doing good works with strings attached – expecting, or at least hoping, that the beneficiaries of the good works will, in turn, adopt the missionaries’ faith. What a crock.
I’d like my kids, my impressionable kids, to be left out of all this crap. If they want to attend a church service where everything is right up-front, they are more than welcome to. I have no objection to straightforward exposure to different faiths. But this manipulative stuff? No. I don’t like it any more than a Christian parent would like their child being invited to an all-nighter where atheist talks would be given.
Doubt everything. Question everything. Be skeptical. Examine the facts. Make up your own mind.